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Improved decision-making in contaminated land site investigation and risk assessment

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - Remediate (Improved decision-making in contaminated land site investigation and risk assessment)

Reporting period: 2017-01-01 to 2018-12-31

The REMEDIATE project has concluded all activities as the end of the project has been reached. This Innovative Training Network is made up of 7 beneficiaries from five EU member states - the UK, Ireland, Germany, Denmark and Italy, and 10 partner organisations. the project was co-ordinated by the QUESTOR Centre at Queen's University Belfast (QUB). REMEDIATE delivered innovative research for more cost effective and sustainable remediation of contaminated land.

REMEDIATE was a collaboration between groups in academia and industry with expertise in a wide range of technologies. Early Stage Researchers (ESRs) were recruited to take part in research and training programmes to provide them with a blend of technical and transferable skills to enhance their career prospects. The researchers received joint supervision from both academic and industry mentors. REMEDIATE has produced a generation of mobile, creative, and innovative researchers with skill sets to address present and future challenges in the contaminated land sector. Each research project was designed to benefit the contaminated land sector through development of techniques and tools relating to site investigation and risk assessment, to provide better informed solutions to contamination.

Research was carried out within four thematically linked work packages: environmental chemistry and toxicological approaches to site assessments; rapid molecular microbiological approaches to assessing bioremediation; geophysical approaches to site assessments; and computational modelling and prediction approaches to estimate contamination, forecast contamination development and assess remediation options. Other work packages delivered the planning, training, and dissemination activities of REMEDIATE.

A cornerstone of this project was cross-disciplinary collaboration. Network meetings were held where supervisors and ESRs discussed their work and identified areas for cooperation and collaboration. The project held three summer schools with intensive training by leading academics and industry partners across the contaminated land sector. This resulted in collaboration around the sharing of samples sites and techniques, resulting in harmonised data sets and more productive work output.

To date, the Remediate project has produced 47 publications in scientific journals, books, industry magazines, and conference outputs. Of these to date, 25 are in leading international peer reviewed journals with nine more in preparation. The Early Stage Researchers have collaborated across the work packages producing multi-disciplinary and trans disciplinary work that enhanced their training beyond a normal PhD.

The project has a Virtual Special Issue (VSI) in the leading environmental journal Science of the Total Environment. The VSI celebrated the output of the project as well as research from other leading figures in industry and academia who participated in the Remediate final conference.

The Remediate conference was held on the 19th – 20th September 2018. It had 4 sessions, 12 presentations from ESRs and a further 18 presentations from industry and academia. The conference also had two industry focused workshops. Workshop 1 was facilitated by project partners The Geological Survey of Northern Ireland and the British Geological Survey on the use and application of environmental data for contaminated and brownfield sites. The other workshop was facilitated by the Ireland Brownfield network and was focused on influencing policy and good practice around the issue of asbestos in soils in Ireland.
The Remediate network participated in a kick-off meeting (Feb 15) and met every six months for network meetings throughout the project.

ESRs were recruited, and made excellent progress both towards the technical objectives of their individual research projects and communcating their work to a wider audience

Local training in both laboratory and complementary skills were delivered at each host site. Each fellow reported on training through their personal career development plan, which was updated every six months.

ESRs have completed secondments to other beneficiary organisations, and also to partner organisations such as Stevens Institute of Technology, and the British Geological Survey.
Further secondments to the University of Toronto, RSK Ltd, Horizon Ltd, Golder Associates and the University of Sao Paulo took place.

Summer schools were held at QUB (June 2016), UCPH (June 2017) and UDE (June 2018).

UCPH is developed a ‘Smart chip’; a novel high-throughput qPCR chip for trace element resistance and biotransformation genes, to better define soil quality indicators in metal contaminated sites. The primers have been designed, and are currently being validated.
QUB and DCU developed Bio Electrical Systems (BES) to allow real-time remote monitoring of contaminated land. Lab scale testing is underway at both venues; considerable contaminant reduction and electrical output has been achieved: this is informing the design of larger scale BES for deployment in the field.
CRA is improving risk assessment techniques by developing toxicology tests and chemical analysis for contaminated soil.
QUB is developing a technique to improve the extraction method and test for bioavailability and bioaccessibility of contaminants. Soil samples from the Tellus geochemical archive are being used to validate the method.
UDE is developing analytical methods to evaluate the efficiency of remediation techniques by enhancing the performance of state of the art mass spectrometry instrumentation.
DCU is working to identify (and quantify) polyaromatic hydrocarbons and their breakdown products in soil. Experiments have started to track the fate of these compounds in complex materials.
QUB is using nucleotide sequencing and bioinformatics to map the viral and microbial communities found in soil. An initial sequence has been described, and will be used to further study the evolution of these communities in remediated land.
TUDO is developing software to predict the movement and development of contamination in groundwater.
UNITO is developing tools and protocols to improve the reuse and valorization of waste materials on former mining sites.
REMEDIATE aims to make a significant contribution to the reduction of contaminated land in Europe by the provision of tools to aid in the decision making process in the remediation process.
Improved risk assessment will identify whether elevated levels of contamination pose a risk to health, to identify soil contamination that requires remediation.

Development of novel tests will allow monitoring and assessment of pollutants in water and soil with precision, accuracy, and detection limits better than previously possible. Coupling metagenomics to chemistry will allow researchers and practitioners to gain a clearer picture of the degradation of organic pollutants in soil. This knowledge can then be used in management strategies for the remediation of soils. Instruments powered by the energy from microbes will enable real-time remote monitoring of the levels of contamination. These projects are supra disciplinary in that they combines two disciplines that do not normally engage in research together (geophysics and microbiology). This new discipline is known as biogeophysics. Computer modelling will predict the spread of contamination to allow targeted remediation.
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